A still from The Wider Earth. Image: Prudence Upton

Natural History Museum builds theatre to host Darwin play

Robert Picheta, 25.07.2018
Play draws on museum's scientific and historical expertise
A 357-seat theatre will be built at the Natural History Museum to hold the European premiere of a play exploring Charles Darwin's first voyage around the world.

The theatre will be constructed in the museum's Jerwood Gallery and will host The Wider Earth, which has recently completed runs in Sydney and Brisbane, from 2 October to 30 December.

The play explores the young Darwin's voyage on the HMS Beagle, during which he began to formulate his theories on evolution and natural selection.

Scientists at the museum have been reviewing the script and advising on historic and scientific details in order to ensure the production is "authentic", the museum has said.

Many of the specimens Darwin collected on the voyage are held at the museum's Darwin Centre, close to the new theatre.

Clare Matterson, the museum's director of engagement, said: "This is a really exciting creative collaboration - bringing together a hugely talented theatrical team and the Natural History Museum's world-renowned scientific expertise.

"It makes perfect sense for the museum to host this production, which is a gripping retelling of one of the most important voyages in scientific history."

The theatre will be removed following the production and the Jerwood Gallery will display a science-based art installation by a British artist, with details to be confirmed later this year.

The Wider Earth features a cast of seven and will make use of 30 puppets depicting creates Darwin observed on his journey.

It premiered at Queensland Theatre in Brisbane before moving to the Sydney Opera House for the Sydney Festival.

Five evening performances and three matinees will be held each week.